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Peggy Gomez


Peggy Gomez said that Mondays are typically her busiest day at the shop. She does inventory and helps the customers who come in looking for various art supplies.

Running and owning Gomez Art Supply has become her life. It wasn’t what she set out to do, but somehow it’s become her story.

As a kid, Peggy said she was always interested in art. She grew up in Omaha as the daughter of a father with Mexican heritage and a mother with Irish blood. They were supportive of her love for art and encouraged her to pursue it during school. She earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts at UNL and her Master’s in Fine Arts at the University of Minnesota, before returning to Lincoln to teach.

Peggy taught at the University for nearly 10 years, specializing in drawing and printmaking, and while she enjoyed working with the students, she said she knew she didn’t want teaching to be her full-time gig.

She remembers overhearing students talk about how they wished there was a local place to buy art supplies in Lincoln. The big stores were either not helpful or many were located far from campus. Back when Peggy was in school, there were small art shops in town, but they’d since closed, giving her the idea that just maybe she could open an art supply shop.

The idea slowly grew over the years and eventually she quit her job at the University with the hopes of starting her own business.

But in 2002, time stood still for Peggy. Her father passed away, leaving a big void in her life, and causing her to take some time off to figure out her next step.

Her father was the kind of dad everyone hopes they have, she said. He was always showering her and her two sisters with encouraging words, often looking them in the eyes and saying, ‘Did I tell you how much I love you today?’

“In life, if you’re lucky, you get what you need in a family,” Peggy said. “And my dad was the one we were all closest to.”

She still wishes he could have been around when she opened the doors to Gomez Art Supply in the fall of 2003. Her father was a businessman himself, who would have loved to see Peggy settle on a career, she said, but she always knew he was proud of her.

She intentionally named the shop ‘Gomez’ as a tribute to her father. It’s a good name, she said, and he was a good man – she keeps an old picture of him hanging on a wall behind the register in the shop.

Most days, Peggy said, she’s proud of how she’s kept her shop open and thriving for 13 years – and she knows her dad would be proud too. She’s got grit and lots of staying power, she’s not easily swayed and isn’t fussy about the little things.

When a big name art supply shop moved in just blocks from her shop, she thought maybe her days were numbered, but they weren’t. Peggy’s connection and support from the University, along with her integration into the Lincoln small business community have made her and her shop a well-known and loved part of downtown Lincoln.

But there are bad days too, she said. Her heart still sinks when a customer leaves a bad online review or when she overhears people in the shop complain.

It feels personal, she said, and the hardest part is learning how to develop a thick skin. Sure, her business isn’t all of who she is, but there is so much about Peggy that’s tied to her work.

When Peggy isn’t in the shop, she’s running the Tugboat art gallery in collaboration with other local artists. The gallery is a place where artists of all kinds can show their work and engage with the community. She doesn’t financially benefit from this kind of work, she just does it. It’s her way of giving back to Lincoln and supporting something she values.

Being a supportive part of the community was always in her rough sketch of a business plan. It’s something her dad did, and something she knew she wanted to be part of her legacy as well.

Gomez Art Supply is where Peggy saw her hazy future clear up. It’s where her love of art, community and quality converged. It’s a place that bears her family name, and one that she’s proud to own and operate even on the days when it’s stressful and overwhelming.

It isn’t a big art superstore and it never will be. It has hand-drawn murals and signs, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. It’s got character, spunk and it has weathered its fair share of uncertainty, but it’s Peggy’s shop and when she shuts off the lights and locks the door, that’s what matters.

Nate Woods


Nate Woods points to a grouping of framed photos on the wall.

“He’s going to graduate from high school this year, and she will too…” he said, moving his pointer finger from one photo to the next.

Nate is standing in a quiet hallway inside The Malone Center. In a few hours these halls will be filled with the sound of pattering feet and excited voices of the kids enrolled in the after school program. It’s this boisterous, controlled-chaos that is, by far, Nate’s favorite part of the day.

But other than the people who use the community center, Nate said, few people know much about the story behind the building and its programs. It’s a story that’s close to Nate’s heart, because his story is connected to the Center.

The Malone Center was started in 1955 as a way to strengthen the African American community and serve as a hub for educational, cultural and social programs for all people.

But its roots go deeper than its founding in 1955, and Nate Woods knows this because his grandfather, Millard Woods, was the original founder.

In the early ‘30s, Millard wanted a place for people of all races to gather. Nate described how back then there was still a high level of segregation that left colored people out of other social gathering spots. So, Millard started what he called the Urban League out of a yellow, two-story house.

The precursor to The Malone Center became the place to find information about jobs and schooling, but also a social hall with sewing clubs, dances and basketball games that filled the house with nearly constant energy.

Nate was only six years old when his grandfather passed away and is honest about the fact that he doesn’t remember much about him. He wasn’t around to experience the early years of The Malone Center, but Nate understands an important part of his grandfather’s story because of The Malone Center.

Nate has worked as the assistant director at The Malone Center for the last 13 years. He’s helped start numerous programs and watched as kids transition from preschool to high school. He’s like a dad to most of the kids there, he knows their names, interests, strengths and weaknesses. He’s the person parents call if they’re concerned about their kid.

Nate just gets kids and he know that matters, because not so many years ago he was one of those kids running around and shooting hoops in the gym.

While Nate lived on the west side of Lincoln, he remembers finally getting to the age when his mom would let him bike across town to The Malone Center. He’d shoot hoops with friends until it got dark and then he’d bike home.

It was his routine, his place, and that’s what Nate loves being able to give to the people who utilize The Malone Center today. 

Nate loves his job. He said he wakes up every day, excited about the new challenges and surprises that await him. He knows that not everyone feels that way about their work, and he thinks it has something to do with living under his grandfather’s legacy. 

Here’s the thing, Nate may not have known his grandfather very well, but the way he describes him – caring, kind, energetic – is the way so many people describe Nate. He walks around the Center joking with the maintenance guy and giving one of the preschool teachers a hard time, he’s fun to be around and that seems pretty special.

Nate points to one last picture on the wall.

“That’s my grandfather,” he said, looking intently at the painted picture.

“I think he’d be proud of this place.”

And for Nate Woods, that’s what matters.

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